ASPREY DEBATE HEATS UP

Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — The battle over the Asprey name just got nastier.
As reported, Asprey & Garrard last Monday started legal proceedings against William R. Asprey over his store, William R. Asprey, Esq., on Mount Street here.
William R. Asprey Thursday rebutted the claims. He insisted the areas where the two companies compete are limited and contrasted his 19-person staff with Asprey & Garrard’s 230 employees.
“There’s no question of ‘taking’ the Asprey name,” he said in a statement. “I was born with it and the use of what is manifestly a personal name, as opposed to a corporate one, as our trading title, clearly indicates that we are not connected with Asprey & Garrard at all. We will be defending these proceedings vigorously.”
And Asprey & Garrard intends to pursue them just as strongly. The luxury goods company — now owned by Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou, who also own 19 percent of Tommy Hilfiger Corp. — initially contacted William R. Asprey in December, alleging he was infringing the Asprey & Garrard trademarks and illegally passing them off.
Tony Willoughby, head of Asprey & Garrard’s lawyers Willoughby & Partners, said in a telephone interview the next step is a court action. No court date has been set but Willoughby hopes to be given one within the next two weeks. He said he hopes the matter can be settled within 12 months.
Willoughby declined to say whether there is hard evidence of confusion among consumers between the William R. Asprey and Asprey & Garrard businesses. But in launching the Asprey & Garrard action, Willoughby left no doubt he believed there had been.
“Asprey & Garrard Ltd. welcomes competition but is resolute in its determination to protect the integrity of its brand,” he said in a statement. “Asprey is a brand/trademark of Asprey & Garrard Ltd. Arguably it is Asprey & Garrard’s most valuable asset. It is the name by which a large proportion of the business is known and recognized.”
Willoughby said that Asprey & Garrard is traditionally abbreviated to simply “Asprey” and he expected people referring to William R. Asprey, Esq. to do the same. The Asprey business has been a family one for almost its entire history, Willoughby said, and William R. Asprey, Esq., is likely to be seen as simply another arm of that business. In fact, William Asprey — the son of former Asprey chairman John Asprey and a former director of Asprey & Garrard — stresses his family’s history in the promotional literature for his shop, Willoughby said.
William R. Asprey left Asprey & Garrard in August 1999, two months after he’d registered the company name WRA (Guns), Ltd. Asprey & Garrard initially hoped it could get him to revert to that name for his store.
“Unfortunately he will not drop the Asprey name,” Willoughby said. “In those circumstances, and given the enormous value of the brand to Asprey & Garrard, they have had no alternative but to institute these proceedings.”

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